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Local pediatrician weighs in on social media’s impact after house passes restrictive bill | ABC Action News

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By: Keely McCormick

Posted at 4:58 AM, Feb 12, 2024

and last updated 7:02 AM, Feb 12, 2024

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida House recently passed a bill that aims to restrict children’s and teenagers’ social media use, preventing people under the age of 16 from creating accounts.

ABC Action News sat down with a local pediatrician to get a closer look at the impact social media has on development.

Dr. David Berger owns Wholistic Pediatrics Daily Care. He has had an up close and personal look at children’s development as social media came into the picture.

“I spoke to a patient last week who was spending five hours a day during the week. Eleven to 12 hours on the weekend on a screen. I mean, that’s horrible,” Dr. Berger said.

He said that too much screen time at a young age can lead to learning disabilities like ADD.

“Patterns? It is not a pattern. It is nonstop scrolling through all kinds of social media,” Allison Oakes, head of Hillel Academy in Tampa, said.

Oakes said her students can’t have their phones during the school day, but as soon as the bell rings, their eyes are glued to the screen.

“Not only is it a rush to get the phone and their heads go down immediately to it, we are shouting at children to come to the car line faster. Stop looking at your phone,” she said.

Oakes and Dr. Berger explained that the addictive aspect of social media is not the only concern—it’s also what children are exposed to online and a spike in cyberbullying. Dr. Berger said that can play a big role in children’s self-esteem at a young age.

“We’re seeing more and more mental health challenges popping up,” Oakes said. “Children not feeling very good about themselves, more cyberbullying.”

Bark Technologies recently released a report that shows 67% of tweens and 76% of teenagers experience cyberbullying in some capacity.

“As a mom, the way that children speak to each other online is abhorrent,” Titiana Jordan, chief parent officer of Bark Technologies, said.

Jordan said she is in favor of the bill and thinks it will protect children. But Oaks said she would like to see more education and conversation surrounding social media rather than a ban.

“I’m not a fan of bans or censorship. I have not met a child that cannot find their way around a ban,” Oakes said.

The Florida House approved the bill, and the senate will consider it next.